FT. MEADE, Md. — A military judge on Wednesday sentenced Army Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison, ending a summer-long court-martial in which he was convicted of espionage for leaking a vast trove of classified U.S. military and diplomatic materials to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks in 2010.
Army Col. Denise Lind, who delivered the sentence, found Manning guilty last month of six counts of violating the Espionage Act and mishandling classified material, but she acquitted him of a more serious charge of aiding the enemy.
Supporters have hailed Manning as a whistle-blower for revealing government secrets and exposing alleged misdeeds in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They staged a vigil outside Ft. Meade, where the court-martial was held, and planned to organize an evening rally outside the White House.
Manning faced a maximum sentence of 90 years in prison, but in the final phase of the trial, prosecutors urged the judge to sentence him to 60 years behind bars.
Manning’s lawyers asked the judge to show leniency, suggesting a 25-year term, after he apologized to the court and said he hadn’t intended to hurt anyone.
Manning, 25, likely will be moved to the Army’s central prison in Ft. Leavenworth, Kan. In the months ahead, his attorneys plan to file appeals against his conviction and petition for his release.
In addition, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, who heads the Military District of Washington D.C., must approve the judge’s findings in the case. He can reduce the conviction and the sentence, but he can’t increase them.
Military prosecutors, who had sought a life sentence for Manning when the court-martial began on June 3, argued that Manning knew the leaked classified material would end up on the Internet and be made accessible to Al Qaeda and other terror organizations. Indeed, some of the data was found on computers recovered from Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan after he was killed in May 2011.
They said Manning’s decision to release more than 700,000 war logs, terror detainee assessments, State Department cables and other materials to Wikileaks harmed U.S. security and put people’s lives at risk. Some of the documents identified informants who had helped U.S. forces.
Defense lawyers said Manning was deeply troubled by materials he saw while serving as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010, and that he wanted to warn the public about abuses in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.